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AUTHOR Hymel, Glenn M.; Dyck, Walter E.TITLE An International Perspective on Mastery Learning.PUB DATE Jul 92NOTE 24p.; Revised version of a paper presented at the
Annual Meeting of the International Congress ofPsychology (25th, Brussels, Belgium, July 19-24,1992).
PUB TYPE Reports Evaluative/Feasibility (142)Speeches /Conference Papers (150)
EDRS PRICE MF01/PC01 Plus Postage.DESCRIPTORS Communication (Thought Transfer); Educational
Attitudes; *Educational Psychology; EducationalResearch; Elementary Secondary Education; ForeignCountries; *International Studies; LiteratureReviews; *Mastery Learning; Models; TeachingMethods
IDENTIFIERS World Views
ABSTRACTMastery learning represents a prolific area of
research in educational psychology that encompasses two principalcharacteristics: (1) an optimistic set of assumptions regarding thecapability of students to learn if alterable variables comprising theconditions of learning are optimized; and (2) an array of adaptiveinstructional procedures predicated on the medical model ofdiagnostic-prescriptive intervention. From both theoretical andpractical perspectives, mastery learning has served as a catalyst fora paradigm shift from a dominant prediction-selection model to anemerging diagnostic-developmental model. Since B. S. Bloom's seminalpublication in 1968, the preponderance of mastery learning literaturehas focused on the North American experience. In response to the lackof a worldwide perspective on mastery learning, this paper attemptsto operationalize the international dimensions of mastery learning byspecifying its essential meaning and defining characteristics, itscurrent status in the international professional literature, andneeded initiatives for advancing mastery learning effortsinternationally. These efforts concentrate on: (1) establishingcommunication networks; (2) determining topical areas of focus; and(3) formulating research and development methodologies. (Contains 117references.) (SLD)
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An International Perspective on Mastery Learning
Glenn M. HymelLoyola University
New Orleans, LouisianaUnited States
Walter E. DyckUniversity of AntwerpUniversity of Brussels
Revised version of a paper presented at the XXV InternationalCongress of Psychology, Brussels, 19-24 July, 1992.
Reactions to this paper are encouraged and may be directed toDr. Glenn M. Hymel, Chairman & Associate Professor, Department ofPsychology, Loyola University, New Orleans, LA 70118, USA;Telephone: 501-865-3257; Fax: 504-865-2149; Pitnet: HYMEL@LOYNOVM;Internet: AVP3GHWMUSIC.LOYNO.EDU
Mastery learning represents an increasingly prolific area ofresearch in educational psychology that encompasses two principal
characteristics: (a) an optimistic set of assumptions regardingthe capability of students to learn if alterable variablescomprising the conditions of learning are optimized and (b) anarray of adaptive instructional procedures predicated on themedical model of diagnostic-prescriptive intervention (Bloom,1968, 1976). From both theoretical and practical perspectives onlearning and instruction, then, mastery learning has served as acatalyst for a paradigm shift from a dominant prediction-selectionmodel to an emerging diagnostic-development model (Dyck, Van deLooverbosch, & Wouters, 1982).
Since Bloom's seminal publication in 1968, the preponderance ofthe mastery learning literature has focused on the North Americanexperience and its socio-psycho-cultural interpretations with onlyoccasional documentation of mastery learning efforts in WesternEurope, Asia, the Middle East, South America, and Australia(Anderson & Block, 1985; Hymel, 1990, 1991; Thomas, 1985). Inresponse to this paucity of a worldwide perspective on masterylearning, this paper attempts to operationalize what could belabelled the international dimensions of mastery learning byspecifying its (a) essential meaning and defining characteristics,(b) current status in the professional literature, and (c) neededinitiatives for advancing mastery learning effortsinternationally.
An International Perspective on Mastery Learning
Benjamin S. Bloom's (1968) article titled "Learning forMastery" represented an extrapolation of, as well as a resurgenceof interest in, the relationship between the concepts of time as avariable and high student achievement as a constant. At least inthe context of the 20th century, this conceptual and researchfocus can be traced initially back to the efforts of Washburne(1922) and Morrison (1926) and, more recently, to the seminal workof Carroll (1963).
Essentially, mastery learning may be characterized as anincreasingly expanding research area in educational psychologythat entails two major features (Bloom, 1968, 1976, 1978, 1980):First, it encompasses an optimistic set of theoretical assumptionsregarding the capability of students to learn what we have toteach them provided that certain alterable variables constitutingthe essential conditions of learning are optimized. Secondly, itincorporates an array of adaptive instructional proceduresreflective of the medical model of diagnostic-prescriptiveintervention. Success or failure in school learning, then, islargely an artifact of tne extent to which we adequatelyaccommodate specific learner-based and instruction-orientedvariables considered to be alterable rather than static.
Regarding the optimistic theoretical assumptions of masterylearning, Bloom (1968, 1971, 1976, 1978, 1980) and his colleagues(most notably: Anderson & Block, 1975; Block, 1971, 1980, 1985)have argued that under favorable learning conditions the followingexpectations are indeed viable: (a) Most students--perhaps over90%--can master what we have to teach them, thereby resulting in adesired negatively skewed distribution of achievement scoresrather than the unfortunate though frequently cherished normalbell-shaped distribution of scores. (b) As many as 80% of ourstudents can attain those high levels of achievement typicallyreached by only the top 20% of students. (c) Most students becomevery similar--rather than dissimilar--with respect to learningability, rate of learning, and motivation for further learning asthey progress more deeply into a given course and/or program ofstudies. (d) Profound advancements in 'tudent performance occurnot only in the domain of cognitive learning but also in theaffective realms of student attitudes, interests, self-concept,and mental health.
Concerning the adaptive instructional practices of masterylearning that reflect a type of diagnostic-prescriptiveintervention, Anderson (1981) has focused on the followingfunctions served by mastery learning components regardless of howthey are named: (a) communicating positive expectations tostudents, teachers, administrators, and parents; (b) teaching new
content/objectives within a larger subject-matter context and atappropriate levels of difficulty by way of relating the newlearning to prior learning; (c) monitoring student learning viadiagnostic-progress tests and making instructional decisions basedon this ongoing evidence; (d) prescribing corrective work whenneeded to help students overcome errors and misunderstandingsbefore they accumulate and interfere with subsequent learningtasks; and (e) basing student grades on their performance relativeto pre-specified learnings that are sought ratner than relative tothe performance of other students.
In both the theoretical and practical realms, then, masterylearning has served as a major catalyst for encouraging nothingless than a paradigm shift where the nature of learning andinstruction is concerned. As suggested by Dyck (1976), Dyck andWellens (1979), and Dyck and Wouters (1989), the dominantprediction-selection paradigm has emphasized such themes as astatic conception of individual differences, revealing andanalyzing individual differences, heterogeneity as outcome andpurpose of instruction, norm-referenced testing, selection oftalent, and a nominal period of instruction and learning. By wayof contrast, these same authors characterize the emerging
associated withmastery learning'as highlighting such notions as pursuing equaloutcomes, searching for alterable learner- and instruction-oriented variables, expecting success by virtually all students inthe context of minimal variance, criterion-referenced testing,development of talent, and a focus on time-on-task. Or, in thewords of Dyck, Van. de Looverbosch, and Wouters (1982),
I' 0011V" it - pil
. . .a basic characteristic of almost any system of high
education is the reproduction of heterogeneous results. Twopoints of view can be discerned with regard to this processof reproduction.
The first approach is the prediction-selection paradigmThis has been the dominant philosophy of